by: Mark Jones
Getting back to the comfort of my apartment took longer than expected due to fact I had to drop Baey at his house before taking the rental car to the airport. With the nasty gash on his hand, and the blood smeared golf bag to consider, I couldn’t just ask him to wander about in public trying to arrange his own transportation home. It would’ve attracted unwarranted attention. By the time I finally walked through the door of my condo I was too tired to think of anything else but a hot shower and a solid sleep. To ensure there would be no unwanted interruptions to some well needed shuteye, I turned off my phone. No doubt there’d be a couple of people wanting to talk to me but, in the interests of putting my own needs first, they’d have to wait until I’d had at least six hours in dreamland.
Somewhere in the deep recesses of my sleep filled mind I was hearing drums. Those drums became incessantly louder until I realized it wasn’t a dream, someone was banging on the door. I blinked awake and looked at my watch. I’d been asleep for three hours and the banging on the door was now accompanied by a female voice. It was Nat. There was no point lying down and hoping she’d go away, the security staff knew I was home. I wrapped a bath towel around my waist then ambled to the door. Within seconds of opening it Nat threw herself at me and then slapped my face.
“Cripes woman, what was that for?” I said being stung to my senses.
“I’ve been worried sick about you. Why was your phone turned off?”
“Sorry Nat, I was really tired and needed some sleep,” I said giving her a long hug.
“Okay, apologies accepted. Sit down and I’ll make some coffee. Hmmm, it looks as though you’re not so tired after all,” she said noting a stirring in my loins.
“I think I need that coffee first Nat,” I said making my way back into the bedroom and grabbing my phone.
“Would I be right in saying the mission was a success,” said Nat as my phone began buzzing with missed calls and messages.
“Yeah, I’ve got that damned chanote,” I said as I began scrolling through the half dozen messages from Pete.
“Good, you can hand it over to Peter and hopefully he’ll pay you back quickly,” she said joining me on the sofa with a fresh Lavazza.
“That’s exactly what I intend to do Nat,” I said as I hit call on Pete’s number.
“Jesus H. Christ mate, I’ve been trying to get in touch with you all day. How did things go? Have you got the chanote,” said Pete sounding more than a little on edge.
“Yeah, I’ve got the bloody thing mate. I was dog tired when arrived back in Bangkok and wanted a decent kip.”
“Fair enough mate. Any problems getting the job done?”
“Nothing major just a bit of a hiccup with the drawer, that’s all.”
“Baey said the release mechanism on the tray was seized. He had to remove the drawer from the bench and get stuck into with a screwdriver on the workshop floor. He reckons it was that, combined with the noise created by inching up the roller door when he went in, that woke the occupants in the house. He never had time to put the drawer back, before legging it, so someone’s probably going to be wondering what was hidden in that secret compartment.”
“Well they can wonder all they like. We’ve got the real chanote now so it doesn’t matter.”
“Yeah, I suppose not. When do you think you’ll be down here to pick it up?”
“Probably in about three days or so. The buyer is flying in tomorrow and he wants to inspect the property before he starts transferring money into Thailand.”
“That might be a bit difficult if you can’t get near the property?”
“It should be okay. I’ll tell Amm she can keep the chanote, the one she thinks is the original, until she gets her share of the house sale. That way she should be amenable to the buyer doing an inspection. ”
“I don’t get this. I thought you were dead set against giving her a big payout?”
“I still am. I’m just playing her game that’s all. Once the purchase is finalised, and the cash has been transferred into my account, I’ll disappear. She’ll be left holding a fake bloody chanote and nothing else,” said Pete almost smugly.
“I think you’d be well advised to disappear, mate. Amm will be baying for blood when she finds out. What about those drug charges?”
“Det reckons with the right palms greased he can string it out until it’s forgotten about.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me? Money, the sure answer to any predicament in this country. Anyway mate I’ve got a few things to get on with so I’ll catch up with you later,” I said snuggling up to Nat on the sofa.
“Okay Mike, see you in a couple of days then,” replied Pete as we ended the call.
“When’s he coming to pick up the chanote?” said Nat.
“Probably in a two or three days. The buyer wants to inspect the house so he’s got to stay around Korat for a while until that’s happened.”
“Good. Hopefully after he gets the chanote, and you get your money back, he’ll leave you alone. He’s playing a dangerous game deceiving a woman like that. She’ll lose face big time and will be out for revenge.”
“She’s not the only one,” I said turning my attention to Brian’s phone call.
“What do you mean?”
“Brian called me this morning with some bad news.”
“It’s Ning. Apparently she’s been released early. Brian said she was back in Pattaya and already saying she wants revenge.”
“Oh my Buddha, this isn’t good Mike.”
“No and I guess a holiday to Pattaya is out of the question for a while?” I said trying to make light of it.
“That’s not funny. Ning is a psychopath. Does anyone in Pattaya know where you live now?”
“No, I moved here after our little adventure down there and haven’t told anyone apart from a couple of close friends in Bangkok.”
“Good. At least she doesn’t have any way of locating you.”
“Yes, thankfully,” I said as Nat started getting amorous.
The fact was although I knew I was fairly safe from any reprisals by Ning. I also knew the nature of the beast. Ning was a psycho, the type of person who would harbour long lasting grudges for face, and opportunities, lost. For that reason I couldn’t feel one hundred percent safe. To allay any unease I might have been feeling I decided to blot it out by taking Nat to a high end restaurant and onto an upmarket night club. We drank a bit too much good wine and the following morning there was a bleary eyed face looking back at me in the bathroom mirror. Nat to her credit had risen at a reasonable hour and been on her way not much later than her normal start to a work day. I made a coffee and was just settling into a bit of internet time when my phone started buzzing. It was Pete.
“Morning mate,” I said with the head was still pounding.
“Cripes Mike, you sound a bit rough. A big night or has miss beautiful worn you out again?”
“A bit of both actually. I probably had a few more wines than advisable. Anyway, what’s up?”
“Nothing major, just a bit of a snag regarding meeting the buyer today?”
“Yeah, what’s the story?”
“Well, the cops here have placed a bloody restriction on my movements. I can’t travel more than fifty kilometres from the damned police station, at the moment, due to the terms of that fucking bail agreement I signed. Det said, for a small payment to the right person, the restriction can be lifted but it will take a couple of days to process the paperwork. The problem is I was going to drive down to Bangkok this morning and pick up Dave the buyer, from the airport then head back up to Pak Chong. I won’t be able to do that now.”
“Mate, I don’t really want to go back up to Korat right now?” I said feeling a little peeved Pete would even consider suggesting that.
“I wasn’t thinking of asking you Mike. I’ve told the buyer I’ve got a couple of problems and I can’t pick him up. He’ll have to fly up to Korat tomorrow. Hopefully by the next day the bail restriction will be lifted and I can drive him down to Pak Chong to look at the house and carry on to Bangkok.”
“What do you need from me then?” I said feeling a bit more at ease.
“I was just wondering if you could keep him entertained tonight. Have a couple of beers with him and maybe a tour of the local watering holes around Sukhumvit?”
“Yeah, I suppose I could do that mate. Where’s he going to be putting up tonight?”
“At the Landmark.”
“Well, he’s certainly in the thick of things there. What’s the guy’s name and what time do you want me to meet with him?”
“His name’s Dave Baker. I’ll SMS you his local number so you can call him and work out a time to meet. He’s touching down at around four p.m. so I figure he probably won’t be settled into the hotel until around seven.”
“I was hoping to have a quiet one tonight but if someone else is paying for the beers I’m up for it. I take it as a given he doesn’t know anything about your recent trials and tribulations in Nakhon Ratchasima?”
“No, and hopefully it’ll stay that way. The only spanner in the works could be Amm when he’s inspecting the house tomorrow. I’ll have to get Det to warn her off while we’re at the house.”
“Good luck with that mate. I don’t think she’s the type to take orders from anyone,” I said having a chuckle at Pete’s predicament.
“Ain’t that a fact? No problem though, a bit of subterfuge is called for I think. I’ll tell her it’s advisable to keep her trap shut and stay out of the way. Otherwise no one will be getting any money.”
“That should do it, appeal to her financial instincts.”
“That’s a polite way of describing her predisposition to greed and connivance,” said Pete with a sober take on his wife’s mental state.
“Well at least she’s not plotting to off you,” I said casting my mind back to past events in Pattaya
“For now, but who’s to say what sort of vengeful beast she may turn into once she finds out she’s not getting fifty percent of the house sale?”
“Probably a good enough reason to make yourself scarce mate.”
“Yes, revenge is something I’ve already experienced with her and I won’t be sticking around to get another taste of it.”
“I might have to consider making myself scarce as well.”
“That psycho bitch in Pattaya who bumped off my mate, is out early on good behaviour.”
“How do you know that?”
“I had a call from a mate, living down there, yesterday morning telling me as much. He said she’s surfaced in Pattaya and the word on the street is she’s hell bent on revenge.”
“Who knows mate, it might just be idle street banter. She’s got no way of locating you anyway?”
“True enough. Anyhow mate I’ve got a few things I need to get on with,” I said trying to get off the subject.
“Okay Mike. I’ll SMS Dave and let him know you’ll be contacting him later today.”
“Cheers Pete, hopefully see you in a couple of days then,” I said in closing.
The only thing of note I had lined up for the day was to give Baey his money for our night operation in Pak Chong. I had suggested doing a transfer but he vetoed that idea saying he didn’t want any record of large transfers of money into his account. We decided to meet mid-afternoon at a café in Thong Lor so I could square him up in cash. He was already sitting at an outdoor table when I arrived.
“There you go mate, fifty large ones,” I said passing him a plastic shopping bag, with the cash wrapped up inside, as I took a seat.
“Cheers Mike,” said Baey immediately taking the package and dropping it into his back pack.
“How’s the hand,” I said indicating two more coffees to the wait staff.
“Getting better thanks Mike,” said Baey holding up his hand to show me the stiches.
“It was probably a good thing you had those gloves on mate.”
“Yes, no doubt Mike. The doctor up in Saraburi told me it would’ve been a lot worse if it wasn’t for the glove.”
“I guess it will be a few days before you’re swinging those golf clubs about.”
“That was a good bonus. I’m sure Peter will be quite annoyed when he finds out they’ve gone missing,” said Baey with a chuckle.
“No doubt he will but I think that’s the least of his worries at the moment,” I said as the waiter placed our coffees on the table.
“When is he coming to pick up the chanote?”
“Unfortunately not for another couple of days at least. He was supposed to come down today to pick up the buyer from the airport but there’s some kind of restriction, on his movements, in the terms of the bail. Until he sorts that out he can’t move too far from Korat.”
“That might make things difficult for him when it comes to hiding from his wife.”
“If he moves to another area he’s required to inform the police of his intended address.”
“Hmmm, it might not be too difficult then for Amm to find out where he’s staying when he comes down here. Anyhow, that’s his problem.”
“Have you had any updates from Brian?”
“No and, to be honest, I don’t really want to, apart from hearing she’s been sent back to the monkey house.”
“That will eventually happen again Mike, it’s only a matter of time,” replied Baey assuredly.
“How can you be certain of that?”
“Her type can’t help themselves. That’s her karma, her destiny, simply because she’s consumed by greed.”
We spent the next hour drinking more coffee, watching the steady stream of hiso totty walking by, and mulling over our trials, and tribulations, of the past few months. Eventually the heat of the late afternoon gave way to the kinder temperatures of the early evening and, with the street lights beginning to flash up, it was time for us to be on our way.
“Anyway mate I need make a move. I’m meeting that buyer for a couple of beers.”
“Okay Mike, thanks for squaring me up,” said Baey patting his backpack.
“No problems mate, you earned every single baht.”
Forty minutes later I was sitting at the outdoor patio of the Landmark Hotel enjoying a cold Heineken. I was a few minutes early for the meeting time with Dave and, as such, settled into a bit of prime time people watching on lower Sukhumvit. I hadn’t been to the Landmark for a few months and, by the looks of things, I hadn’t missed much. The usual parade of bar-girls, making their way to Nana Plaza, was as regular as clockwork. The only thing which appeared to be new, or different, on the scene was an influx of over thirties freelance hookers sitting about. At bang on seven thirty, our agreed meeting time, the Dave made his way onto the outdoor seating area. He was your standard Aussie, late forties, Caucasian male, hailing from Sydney with his own successful accountancy firm, a man who enjoyed the pleasures of life. His ample girth showed as much.
“Mike,” I said standing and offering my hand as he joined me at the roadside table.
“Dave,” he said responding in kind and taking a seat.
“What’s your poison Mike?”
“Heineken,” I said waving over the wait staff.
“Two thanks,” said Dave pointing at my glass.
“You’ve stayed here before, I gather?” I said as Dave got himself comfortable.
“Yeah, a few times. The foods great, the service is good, the rooms are a decent standard, and the place is centrally located.”
“You could say that,” I said smirking and nodding to a group of young go-go dancers walking past.
“Not so much of that anymore. To be honest the novelty wore off a while ago,” said Dave as our beers were placed in front of us.
“As it eventually does for most of us,” I said nodding in agreement.
“Yeah, well I’m married now anyway. I hooked up with a nice educated Bangkok girl, from a decent family a few years ago and we’ve got two kids now. How about you, are you still a player?”
“Not much now. Got myself a decent bird with a real job and a good income. That lot don’t seem so special anymore,” I said glancing down at another group walking past.
“Waste of money as well, to be honest mate.”
“I take it your keen on your golf?”
“You could say that. It’s a good way of getting some exercise as well. Not that it’s working though?” said Dave patting his stomach and having a laugh.
“It’s quite a nice spot up there at Pak Chong?”
“Yeah, I loved the place the first time I went up there. The golf course is brilliant and it’s in a beautiful setting. To be honest I was a bit shocked when Pete asked me if I wanted to buy the place but, in the end, I wasn’t surprised.”
“His missus, Amm is a bloody nut job.”
“Well, she certainly seems a bit agitated,” I said as we finished off our beers.
“Not surprising though?” said Dave as we ordered another round.
“She’s bipolar, that’s why.”
“That would explain her emotional instability,” I said nodding agreement with Dave’s sentiments.
“I warned Pete about it when he first mentioned he was thinking of marrying her. And her mood swings are made worse by the fact that she doesn’t manage her condition well,” said Dave shaking his head.
“She’ supposed to stay off the booze but she’s a lush, a bloody wino. She’s always quaffing down the Claret at those silly damn social gatherings she goes to. As much as I don’t like to say it I think Pete’s doing the right thing by selling up and getting rid of her.”
“From what you say I think it’s the best option for him. Pete tells me you’re flying up to Khorat tomorrow to do an inspection on the property?”
“Yeah, I just want to make sure it’s in a good state of repair before I go through with the transaction.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, are you doing the purchase through a company or putting it in your wife’s name?”
“Not interested in that company route nonsense. It’s too much of a bloody hassle if you ask me. No, it’ll be in my wife’s name. I’ve got no problems with that as she’s happy with the life she has in Australia. It’s really just a holiday home for us to use on our twice yearly trips up here.”
“If you’ve got one you trust then I don’t see a big issue with putting it in their name. Pete had to jump through a load of hoops to purchase the house through a shell company. As you say, it’s quite a hassle.”
“Are you planning to head to any bars later?” said Dave as we drained the last of our beers.
“To be honest mate I’m a bit shagged. I had a late one last night and a bit too much red wine. Why, are you heading to Nana Plaza?”
“No, I’ve got an early flight in the morning. I just hope that Pete makes it to the airport.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem, he told me he’s expecting you.”
“Yeah, well he’s been a bit bloody erratic these past few days. I was trying to contact him, earlier in the week, and his phone was off for near on forty eight hours. Is there anything amiss up there?”
“Not that I know of,” I said trying to keep a straight face.
“I guess I’ll find out soon enough,” said Dave indicating to the waiter we wanted another round.
As we sat there enjoying the evenings ambience and regaling each other of our individual experiences in Thailand, it became quite obvious Dave had no idea about Pete’s recent run of trouble. It also became increasingly obvious Pete was walking a fine line between successfully closing out the sale of his house and having the whole deal go pear shaped. The tipping point, in one direction or the other, would more than likely have a lot to with the inspection of the property and what Amm might, or might not, be willing to divulge about the situation between her and Pete. After another couple of rounds we decided to call it a night. I was still feeling a bit weary after the late night adventure in Pak Chong and Dave had an early flight to catch. An hour later I was back in my condo and just about ready to get my head down when my phone started buzzing. It was Pete again.
“Hi mate, what’s up?” I said doing my best to mask my annoyance at being called so late.
“Ah, not much mate. Just wanted to see how things went with your little get together with Dave, that’s all?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary mate. He has no inkling of your recent problems in Korat. However, you may want to tread warily as he was a bit concerned about not being able to contact you while you were in the lock up. He actually asked me if there was anything amiss.”
“Yeah, Dave’s a bit of a blood hound for sniffing out trouble but everything should be okay. I’ve asked Det to tell Amm to stay out of the way during the inspection tomorrow.”
“Are you going to be able to drive down to Pak Chong? What about the bail restriction?”
“I had Det working on it today. I’m going to the police station tomorrow morning to sign some paperwork so hopefully I should be on my way to Pak Chong with Dave tomorrow afternoon.”
“Nothing to worry about then?” I said eager to end the call.
“Not exactly,” said Pete flatly.
“Why, what’s happened?”
“Nothing major, it’s just that I’m fairly certain someone has been snooping around in my condo.”
“You’ve had a break-in?”
“No, there’s no sign of forced entry into the apartment.”
“Well if there’s no sign of a forced entry, someone must have used a key to open the door. Who else has a key to your apartment?”
“No one except the lobby staff and they could be easily bribed.”
“That sound like a bit of a stretch. What about the condo security, surely they must have seen something?”
“Mate, this is one of those Thai condo complexes. There’s minimal security down in the lobby area and what there is of it, the one guard, would probably be in collusion with the desk staff. Even if they do know something, they’re not going to admit to it are they?”
“No, I suppose not. It’s a bit of a worry if someone could just bribe the desk staff into opening the door of your apartment. Are you absolutely sure some ones been in there?”
“Yeah, it wasn’t immediately obvious but I’m reasonably meticulous and notice when stuff is out of place, even slightly.”
“No, that’s the thing, there was nothing stolen. It looks as though someone has been through my stuff while I was out at the pub this evening.”
“Seems a bit odd mate. Any idea who it might have been?”
“Yeah, I think it may have been Amm.”
“Amm, are you sure?’
“Yeah, there was a faint trace of her perfume in the air. I can’t say with absolute certainty it was her but the lingering scent was definitely the brand she uses. I also know she was back in town today.”
“What do you think she was looking for?”
“Can’t say for sure but I’ve got a pretty good idea; the chanote.”
“How could she know you’ve got the real one and the one she’s holding is a fake?”
“Well, I don’t know for sure but I still have suspicions about Det.”
“I thought he knew nothing of the secret drawer in the workshop?”
“He doesn’t but I’m a bit concerned about what he might have picked while I was talking with Dave the other day. He crept up on me, while I was on the phone, and may have overheard me tell Dave I’ve got the chanote secured in Bangkok.”
“Well if that was the case mate why wouldn’t Amm just confront you about it instead of snooping through your condo?”
“That’s the worry isn’t it? Who knows what twisted plan she may have devised? I guess I’ll just need to be on my guard for more of her treachery. Anyhow mate, hopefully I’ll be down in Bangkok tomorrow night,” said Pete signalling that he was finally ending the call.
“Okay mate, good luck with the inspection and I’ll see you when you get here,” I said happy that I was finally able to get my head down for some well needed rest.